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Where should I go this summer? Help

  1. Jan 22, 2008 #1
    Where should I go this summer? Help!!

    I am facing a dilemma here. I can't decide where to go for my summer research this year.
    I am a sophomore at a Big Ten university that is well known for its physics program, especially condensed matter. I am taking the second semester of both upper level quantum mechanics and E&M right now and am close to complete all the required physics classes.

    I worked in my physics department last summer already for a high energy physics professor. My work involved exclusively computer engineering and programming that had nothing whatsoever to do with physics.

    This semester, I just started working for a new professor in AMO physics. The research involves cooling and trapping atoms with lasers. Right now, I am building circuit boards for the apparatus of the experiment. I will also be learning about laser cooling and trapping, building the laser, vacuum chamber, doing some laser spectroscopy when the lab is finally set up. The professor wants me to stay for the summer.

    I am really interested in this professor's research and he is a great guy. But I am not sure if it is a good idea for me to do all of my summer research in my own school's physics department.

    Does grad school appreciate it more if you have done research in other places besides your home school's department? Since I am an international student, I don't have that many choices regarding summer research programs. But among the few places that do fund international students, I am interested in Lehigh, William and Mary, and Harvard's REU
    programs, in the area of condensed matter. Comparing to doing summer research in my own school, these programs would be more organized and structured. And mostly likely, I will be able to produce a research paper at the end of the program, which won't happen if I work in my school this summer.

    But on the other hand, working for this professor in my department in the summer gives me much more consistency and allows me to build a great relationship with him whom I will likely be working with for my junior year, even beyond. And he told me that if everything goes well, I will be able to publish a paper in 1.5 to 2 years.

    So what's your opinion? Should I do work in my ow school this summer or else where?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 22, 2008 #2
    If you are interested in what the professor is doing, I say go for it. I find doing research at your own undergraduate school to be the best. Not only can you do research during the summer, but also during the school year. Plus, you build a relationship with a professor who can probably write you a very strong letter of recommendation, because he would know you very well.

    And since he says it is likely you would be able to publish in a year and half to two years that would be great to, since many undergrads do not get that chance at all.

    To be the benefits are as follow:

    1-relation with a professor(s)
    3-Letter of Recommendations
    4-Ability to work on a project longer than a summer.
  4. Jan 22, 2008 #3
    I strongly agree. I did REU back in soph. year but stayed doing research in jun. year. REU was great experience but it wasn't much of research due to time limit. However, I was able pull off everything on the list provided by PowerIso. A great gain!
  5. Jan 22, 2008 #4
    Agreed with the guys - a continuous research program is awesome, compared to a 2-3 month stint at REU.
  6. Jan 22, 2008 #5
    thanks! anyone else cares to share his opinion?
  7. Jan 23, 2008 #6
    My experience is similar to Hungry Chemists. I worked in a Physical Chem Lab doing Intra-cavity Laser Absorption Spectroscopy research as an informal REU sumer before sophomore year. I began doing research with a professor from my physics dept sophomore year in school and found that far more interesting although it is unpaid. REU's are nice because it can be good experience depending on the program but they are short, however they are paid which is nice, where as research is not always a paid position.

    I would recommend you do an REU or two during your summer times and then try and be involved with your school's research whilst back in school for the majority of the year.
  8. Jan 23, 2008 #7
    if I can continue to work at my professor's lab regardless where I go for my summer, would I still be better off staying with him or get some REU experience?
  9. Jan 23, 2008 #8
    From your first post it seems like you are doing very interesting research. I would say unless you want to check out another field, it may be beneficial to stay around for the summer. Compared to how much research an undergrad can get done during the school year, I think you would accomplish a lot more during the summer. Maybe you could ask your professor about it and see what he thinks?
  10. Feb 2, 2008 #9
    What makes you think you will most likely publish a paper at an REU?

    They are not structured so that you can put out a paper in 10 weeks, I actually don't know how likely it is that you put out a paper in an REU, its just not long enough. Think of it this way, when I first started research, I was given a project right away, I worked my ass off on it, 40 hours a week over the summer, and continued into the school year, and 6 months later, I'm finally almost finished with the experiments I need before I can start drafting a manuscript on findings worth reading. And I'm actually one of the lucky ones. Unless you're just looking to come into the lab at the right time and have the PI tack your name on as like, the 12th author or something.
  11. Feb 2, 2008 #10


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    One good aspect of REU's is that you get to meet professors and graduate students at schools that can become possible graduate schools for you. Schools like REU programs because it helps them recruit grad students. So, if you are accepted into an REU program, that means you may have a chance at grad school there. This is one plus about an REU program that shouldn't be overlooked. Also, making connections outside your own institution is VERY important in all scientific fields, and REU's, if used correctly, can help you to begin to do this early.

    So, while research at your own institution is probably better for getting published, which is, of course, VERY IMPORTANT!!! REU's offer their own unique benefits as well. I am currently working on research with a prof. at my school and I think I am going to be second author on the paper we publish. I'm probably not going to get this at the REU I hope to get this summer, but I will meet people from other schools and get first hand experience with a possible graduate school.

    I'd say if you haven't had an REU, try to get one, there are many benefits from the 10-week program, even though you won't have as high of a chance of getting published.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2008
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